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Manchester Evening News
By Chris Osuh, Dan Thompson
In a tragic twist, Frances Andrade was found dead after giving evidence against former Chetham’s boss Michael Brewer and his ex-wife Hilary Kay Brewer during historic trial
The family of a violinist who was sexually abused by a teacher at a Manchester music school says she was driven to suicide after being repeatedly branded a ‘liar’ in court.
Frances Andrade was found dead at her home after giving evidence against former Chetham’s boss Michael Brewer and his ex-wife Hilary Kay Brewer during a trial.
She took her own life while the case was on-going – believed to be a legal first in Britain. Shocked jurors were not told about her death until moments after they found the Brewers guilty of indecently assaulting her three decades ago.
The allegations first came to light when mother-of-four Mrs Andrade, 48, told a friend she had been abused as a teenager while studying at Chetham’s in Manchester – with the confidant going to police.
The Brewers pleaded not guilty to all the charges – meaning the reluctant Mrs Andrade had to relive her traumatic past at Manchester Crown Court.
In his evidence, Mr Brewer described his victim as ‘depressive, hysterical and a fantasist’ and his defence team accused her of making up a ‘pack of lies’.
Mrs Andrade’s son Oliver, speaking after the case, said: “Throughout her life she had many tragic events fall upon her and coped with most with a strength few people could manage.
“However, like all people she was not impervious. Being repeatedly called a ‘liar’ and a ‘fantasist’ about a horrific part of her life in front of a court challenged her personal integrity and was more than even she could bear.”
Mr Brewer, 67, was director of music at the elite Chetham’s school when he began abusing the victim, then just 14, in practice rooms and at his office at the school in 1978. The court was told that Mrs Andrade was a troubled but talented violinist at the school when Mr Brewer began grooming her for sex, moving her into his family home when she was 16. The abuse remained hidden, but he was forced to resign from Chetham’s in 1994 after his affair with another pupil came to light.
Mr Brewer, who founded the prestigious National Youth Choir in 1980, confessed and resigned – with ‘health reasons’ given as an excuse for his departure. Shortly after, in 1995, he was honoured for services to music with an OBE and the cover-up meant that he continued to work with children until last year.
His dark past was finally exposed when Mrs Andrade’s friend went to police. But the trial took its toll on the victim.
On the morning of January 24, when Mr Brewer was halfway through his defence testimony, the court learnt of Mrs Andrade’s death – but it was withheld from the jury.
The case proceeded, following a day’s uncertainty, after Judge Martin Rudland sought advice.
Mr Brewer continued to protest his innocence, describing the allegations as ‘repulsive’.
But he was found guilty of five charges of indecent assault. He was cleared of three more, and of a charge of raping Mrs Andrade when she was 18.
The court also heard that, in the early 1980s, Brewer’s then wife and former primary school teacher Hilary Kay Brewer, 67, sexually assaulted Mrs Andrade after she visited them at the family home at South Drive in Chorlton. She was found guilty in connection with that incident but cleared of aiding and abetting rape on the same night.
The Brewers have been warned to expect jail at a sentencing hearing.
Judge Rudland said at the conclusion of the case: “Tragically a lady has lost her life during the course of these proceedings.
“It’s a tragic state of affairs. We all of us, who were conducting this case, were deeply shocked and moved by that event – that is what brought this trial to a juddering stop while we considered how to deal with that matter. Sadly, Mrs Andrade did not live to see the conclusion.”
The Crown Prosecution Service said Mrs Andrade agreed to give evidence in court and restated her willingness to do so on several occasions.
It said she was assigned a dedicated witness care officer and the prosecutor was selected for his skill in handling sensitive cases. The CPS also applied for special measures to shield the victim in court but she declined so she could face the accused.
Fiery exchange with defence was like ‘rape all over again’
A troubled but brilliant woman who paid the ultimate price
Tragic Frances Andrade paid a terrible price for justice.
The mum-of-four – described as ‘kind, loving and extremely talented’ by her son Oliver – was found dead at her Surrey home days after damning her tormentor from the witness box. She was forced to relive her troubled adolescence after Jenevora Williams – a friend she confided in, who was a colleague of Brewer’s at the National Youth Choir – tipped off the police 18 months ago.
While Mrs Andrade was determined to see Brewer convicted, the gruelling process triggered severe depression which ultimately proved fatal.
The trial heard, in heart-wrenching detail, how Mrs Andrade’s life had been marked by musical brilliance and mental instability.
Originally from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, she won a place at Chetham’s at 13 with a superb audition. The panel didn’t know she had punched herself in the face in an act of self-harm the night before. But her complex problems soon began to cause concern. Her adoptive father, to whom she had been close, died shortly before she joined the school. She hated her adoptive mother.
In the cloistered, high-pressure environment of Chetham’s, her behaviour soon became so erratic and disruptive she was placed under the care of a psychiatrist at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital and prescribed anti-depressants. Despite this, she remained a superb musician and was remembered as a highly-intelligent pupil.
Sadly, her ability and her problems brought her to the attention of Brewer, the school’s director of music, who began abusing her. By the time she was 16 he had arranged for her to move into his home.
Mrs Andrade told the court: “I felt very loved and very cared for – it was the family I had always wanted. Sex with Mike was the price I had to pay.”
It was only when she became a mum herself she realised that she had not been in an adult relationship but was ‘a victim of a paedophile and being abused’. The realisation led to her giving up music for several years, despite the promise she had shown. After leaving Chetham’s she studied with the world’s most respected violin teachers, and graduated from the prestigious Royal Academy.
Raising three sons and daughter allowed her to escape her demons. But in 2011, after Brewer’s offences were brought to the attention of the police, she was forced to revisit her painful past.
Mrs Andrade bravely took the decision to give evidence in court, rather than by videolink, as alleged sex victims are allowed. But the strain that facing her abuser placed Mrs Andrade under was obvious to all in the courtroom.
Early in the case, Brewer was asked by the judge to avert his gaze after the victim complained: “I keep seeing Mike smiling and it’s driving me mad.”
On the final day of her emotionally-charged testimony, after hours of questioning, she described the experience as ‘like rape all over again’.
Her husband, eminent violinist Levine Andrade, told the court that his wife began suffering depression after she was first interviewed by police about the allegations.
Mr Andrade was too unwell to travel up for the case so he gave evidence by videolink.
He told Brewer’s trial that Mrs Andrade had been distraught when her friend tipped off police, that she ‘really wasn’t ready’ for the past to be ‘churned up’.
Days later, the case was thrown into disarray when it emerged that Mrs Andrade had been found dead.
The press were told of the development, but barred from reporting what had happened.
At the end of the trial Judge Martin Rudland told the jury about Mrs Andrade’s death in private and the press and public were excluded from the room. The windows in the doors of Court 7 were covered with black curtains.
Fiery exchange with defence in trial was ‘lie rape all over again’